Wednesday 22 October 2014

Suicide issue should not be trivialised, abortion hearings told

Dearbhail McDonaldLegal Editor

Published 09/01/2013 | 10:07

THE public hearings on abortion have been told that it is "dangerous" for politicians, members of the clergy and doctors to trivialise the issue of suicide.

On day two of the hearings, one of the country's leading legal academics on abortion said that the issue of suicide should be left to medical practitioners.

"X is the law, there is no room for debate on the issue," said Jennifer Schweppe lecturer in law at the University of Limerick.

"It is insulting to women to say that they are going to flock to doctors to assert suicide," said the academic.

Ms Schweppe told the Joint Committee on Health and and Children that suicide only needs to be established as a matter of probability, not certainty.

Ms Schweppe urged the Government to adopt a proactive and not a reactive approach to the issue of legalising abortion and raised a number of ancillary issues with the committee.

Ciara Staunton, from NUI Galway, said guidelines simply are not efficient to meet the requirements of the abc ruling.

Ms Staunton said that because of the Supreme Court decision in the 1992 X case, we already have a degree of legal abortion in Ireland.

Sections 58 and 59 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 needed to be repealed, Ms Staunton told the committee, adding that the real and substantial risk test in the X case needed to be placed on a statutory footing.

Future issues that may arise also required consideration said Ms Staunton.

"We really must trust the clinical judgment of our doctors," said Ms Staunton, who said that difficult cases will come before medical practitioners.

The academic told the committee that medical issues and suicide should be treated as one and under the same test.

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